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Tragedy in one's life ought to be taken into consideration when sentencing criminals

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/29/2016 Category: TV
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 368 times Debate No: 97439
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Tragedy can be defined as, "an event that causes great suffering, stress, or destruction." This could be interpreted to include those afflicted with mental illnesses or other like ailments. Is it just to consider tragedy when deciding punishment?


The world is filled with tragic lives, people who have suffered great pains and injustice. Do they all commit crimes? People have the chance and freedom to decide whether they commit a crime or they don't. Whether the person who committed the crime lived a happy or tragic life does not change the fact that they made the decision to break the law.

Decision can be define as, "a: the process of deciding. b: a determination arrived at after consideration."
Debate Round No. 1


Tragedy in one's life does influence our ability to reason and make sound decisions. For example, soldiers returning from overseas may suffer PTSD, when they're exposed to loud noises like fireworks or other like experiences it may trigger a response that's not based in their own reason, it's based in a mental disorder that spurned from a tragic event like war. In the case of the soldier with PTSD, after being exposed to these triggers they may respond violently. This violent response could sometimes be criminal if it involves the destruction of property, disturbing the peace, etc. Should we simply throw this person in prison? Of course not, what would be more beneficial to himself and society would be to consider this tragedy, and create perhaps a therapy plan or something other than sending someone into a cinder block cell where the disease will only get worse.
I understand the aforementioned case isn't the norm for all cases, and there will be other cases as seen many times today where those who have sufferd tragedy in the form of various mental illnesses don't get special treatment and are still punished for their violent crimes.
I am not saying that all of those who have suffered some tragedy should get away with their crimes. Crimes deserved to be punished. But in the case of the soldier or those who are extremely dangerous like pyschopaths or sociopaths, we must consider tragedy and look at other options rather than prison. To ensure society's safety we must use tragedy as a factor in punishment.


Everyone experiences tragedy at least once in their lives. Some experience more than others for one reason or another. I'm going to leave mental illness to the side for a moment and then I will touch the subject after this. It's very difficult to find one person who has not experiences tragedy at least once in their life, whether it's because they lost a dear one, they have economic troubles, they endure physical or mental abuse, etc. I'm making this point because if everyone has endured tragedy then are you saying that everyone who has committed a crime should be spared or should have a lesser punishment because of it? The thing is, that tragedy does not impair one's ability to reason because it's a daily life occurrence. It may cause stress and it may cause suffering, but it does not cause cognitive impairment, unless they experiences events that leave psychological trauma. People choose to commit a crime, and their past should not give them a pass to a lesser punishment than deserved.

Now about mental illness, there is something called legal insanity. This is when a defendant pleads "not guilty" by reason of insanity, they assert what they call an "affirmative defense", which is when they admit to committing a criminal act, but they are looking to be excused of their behavior because of mental illness. If they are adjudged to being insane during the time they committed the crime they are neither legally or morally guilty. For this to happen they have to be analyzed and examined by an expert in mental illness or insanity in order to determine whether he was in a mentally unstable condition during the time he/she committed the crime. So there is no need to debate for the mentally ill, because they already have the option to plead not-guilty because of their mental state.

For psychopaths and sociopaths, a lot of them are in mental institutes, although a lot of them are also in prisons. The thing is, psychopaths and sociopaths do have the ability to choose if they commit a crime or if they don't. Although they is a large misuse of the word psychopath along the medical community for years, a psychopath is recognised as a category of the antisocial personality disorder. They are characterised by lack of empathy or feelings for other, selfishness, lack of guilt, superficial charm and manipulation. These people do have a mental illness or a set of behaviors that sets them apart, but there is no mention of them not having the ability to make a rational decision, they do, they just prefer not to make them because it does not benefit them. For example, not all psychopaths commit crimes, some just are politicians or people in places of great power and authority in which they can hurt people without committing a crime. The difference between these non-criminal psychopaths and criminal psychopaths is that one chooses to satisfy his needs without violating the law and the other one choose to break the law. So in reality psychopaths have the ability to choose whether they commit a crime or they don't, and most should not have a lesser sentence than deserved.
Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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